Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, Members of Congress, Members of
the Supreme Court and diplomatic corps, distinguished guests, and
Today our Nation lost a beloved, graceful, courageous woman who called
America to its founding ideals and carried on a noble dream. Tonight
we are comforted by the hope of a glad reunion with the husband who
was taken from her so long ago, and we are grateful for the good life
of Coretta Scott King.
Each time I am invited to this rostrum, I am humbled by the privilege,
and mindful of the history we have seen together. We have gathered
under this Capitol dome in moments of national mourning and national
achievement. We have served America through one of the most
consequential periods of our history—and it has been my honor to
serve with you.
In a system of two parties, two chambers, and two elected branches,
there will always be differences and debate. But even tough debates
can be conducted in a civil tone, and our differences cannot be
allowed to harden into anger. To confront the great issues before us,
we must act in a spirit of good will and respect for one another—and
I will do my part. Tonight the state of our Union is strong—and
together we will make it stronger.
In this decisive year, you and I will make choices that determine both
the future and the character of our country. We will choose to act
confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom—or retreat from
our duties in the hope of an easier life. We will choose to build our
prosperity by leading the world economy—or shut ourselves off
from trade and opportunity. In a complex and challenging time, the
road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and
inviting—yet it ends in danger and decline. The only way to
protect our people…the only way to secure the peace…the
only way to control our destiny is by our leadership—so the
United States of America will continue to lead.
Abroad, our Nation is committed to an historic, long-term
goal—we seek the end of tyranny in our world. Some dismiss that
goal as misguided idealism. In reality, the future security of
America depends on it. On September 11th, 2001, we found that
problems originating in a failed and oppressive state seven thousand
miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country.
Dictatorships shelter terrorists, feed resentment and radicalism, and
seek weapons of mass destruction. Democracies replace resentment with
hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors, and
join the fight against terror. Every step toward freedom in the world
makes our country safer, and so we will act boldly in freedom's cause.
Far from being a hopeless dream, the advance of freedom is the great
story of our time. In 1945, there were about two dozen lonely
democracies on Earth. Today, there are 122. And we are writing a new
chapter in the story of self-government—with women lining up to
vote in Afghanistan…and millions of Iraqis marking their
liberty with purple ink…and men and women from Lebanon to Egypt
debating the rights of individuals and the necessity of freedom. At
the start of 2006, more than half the people of our world live in
democratic nations. And we do not forget the other half—in
places like Syria, Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and
Iran—because the demands of justice, and the peace of this
world, require their freedom as well.
No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight
against it. And one of the main sources of reaction and opposition is
radical Islam—the perversion by a few of a noble faith into an
ideology of terror and death. Terrorists like bin Laden are serious
about mass murder—and all of us must take their declared
intentions seriously. They seek to impose a heartless system of
totalitarian control throughout the Middle East, and arm themselves
with weapons of mass murder. Their aim is to seize power in Iraq, and
use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the
world. Lacking the military strength to challenge us directly, the
terrorists have chosen the weapon of fear. When they murder children
at a school in Beslan…or blow up commuters in London…or
behead a bound captive…the terrorists hope these horrors will
break our will, allowing the violent to inherit the Earth. But they
have miscalculated: We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it.
In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our
commitments and retreating within our borders. If we were to leave
these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They
would simply move the battlefield to our own shores. There is no peace
in retreat. And there is no honor in retreat. By allowing radical
Islam to work its will, by leaving an assaulted world to fend for
itself, we would signal to all that we no longer believe in our own
ideals or even in our own courage. But our enemies and our friends can
be certain the United States will not retreat from the world, and we
will never surrender to evil.
America rejects the false comfort of isolationism. We are the nation
that saved liberty in Europe and liberated death camps and helped
raise up democracies and faced down an evil empire. Once again, we
accept the call of history to deliver the oppressed and move this
world toward peace.
We remain on the offensive against terror networks. We have killed or
captured many of their leaders. And for the others, their day will
come. We remain on the offensive in Afghanistan, where a fine
president and a National Assembly are fighting terror while building
the institutions of a new democracy.
We're on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory. First,
we're helping Iraqis build an inclusive government, so that old
resentments will be eased and the insurgency will be
marginalized. Second, we're continuing reconstruction efforts and
helping the Iraqi government to fight corruption and build a modern
economy, so all Iraqis can experience the benefits of freedom. And
third, we're striking terrorist targets while we train Iraqi forces
that are increasingly capable of defeating the enemy. Iraqis are
showing their courage every day, and we are proud to be their allies
in the cause of freedom.
Our work in Iraq is difficult, because our enemy is brutal. But that
brutality has not stopped the dramatic progress of a new democracy. In
less than three years, the nation has gone from dictatorship to
liberation to sovereignty to a constitution to national elections. At
the same time, our coalition has been relentless in shutting off
terrorist infiltration, clearing out insurgent strongholds and turning
over territory to Iraqi security forces. I am confident in our plan
for victory. I am confident in the will of the Iraqi people. I am
confident in the skill and spirit of our military. Fellow citizens, we
are in this fight to win, and we are winning.
The road of victory is the road that will take our troops home. As we
make progress on the ground and Iraqi forces increasingly take the
lead, we should be able to further decrease our troop levels. But
those decisions will be made by our military commanders, not by
politicians in Washington, D.C.
Our coalition has learned from experience in Iraq. We've adjusted our
military tactics and changed our approach to reconstruction. Along the
way, we have benefited from responsible criticism and counsel offered
by members of Congress of both parties. In the coming year, I will
continue to reach out and seek your good advice.
Yet there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for
success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but
failure. Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second guessing is not a
With so much in the balance, those of us in public office have a duty
to speak with candor. A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq
would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison, would put men like
bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country and show that a
pledge from America means little. Members of Congress, however we feel
about the decisions and debates of the past, our nation has only one
option. We must keep our word, defeat our enemies and stand behind the
American military in this vital mission.